Montana Fly Fishing Hatches

March – April Montana Fly Fishing Hatches

Skwala Stoneflies (#8-10), Grey Drakes (#12-14), March Browns (#14) and Blue-wing Olives (#18)
Dry Fly Skwala
Dry Fly Skwala

Our season kicks off with the Skwala hatch on the Bitterroot in mid-March. Fish have a hard time passing up such a large meal and some of our biggest trout of the year, especially browns, are taken during the Skwala hatch each spring.

As April approaches the Clark Fork and Rock Creek come alive as we start to see regular mayfly hatches of Grey Drakes, March Browns, and Blue-wings. This is a favorite time of year in Missoula as sheer dry fly foolishness ensues. Anglers who fish the spring once usually return year after year for the opportunity of big trout on big dries. Montana Fly Fishing Hatches – Suggested Trout Fishing Flies

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Fly Fishing Outfitters – Catch Big Trout

May Montana Fly Fishing Hatches

Caddis (#12-16)

Dry Fly Caddis Trout Fly

Dry Fly Caddis

This is typically the time of year when we experience run-off, but when water conditions allow for it the fly fishing can be fantastic with trout exploding on dries tight to the banks. The caddis hatches on the Blackfoot and Clark Fork are simply unbelievable. 

Our main focus is on the Missouri this time of year with consistent nymph fishing for trophy trout. We also fish certain lakes where the preferred method is sight casting to cruising rainbows that can push 10 pounds! Montana Fly Fishing Hatches – Summer Time Hatches

Diversity of Rivers & Insect Hatches

There are always ups and downs during any fishing season, but our diversity of rivers and insect hatches always seems to stack the deck in your favor, just don’t show up in January.
If run-off does happen to affect your trip then you’re in for a real treat. Many of our biggest fish each year are caught during and around run-off. We never know if we’ll have you on a lake, a tailwater, or a small stream but one thing’s for certain, you’ll be catching big trout.

Montana Fly Fishing – Fun & Exciting Days

June Montana Fly Fishing Hatches

Salmonflies (#4-6), Golden stoneflies (#6-10), and Green Drakes (#8-10)

Dry Fly Salmonfly - Trout Fly

Dry Fly Salmonfly

This is big water and big bug time. The action starts early in the month on the East and West Forks with giant salmon fly patterns. By mid-month Rock Creek bugs are coming off, and by the third week of June, the Blackfoot will join the mix.

Characterized by fast flows and short drifts this is the best time to find large trout gorging on the daily feast of stoneflies. As Salmonflies start to wane Golden stones and Green Drakes begin hatching. Fishing conditions change daily, and Montana Trout Outfitters has the experience to stay on top of the best hatches. Warm and cloudy June days can provide some of the most epic fishing of the season. Montana Fly Fishing Hatches – Trout Fishing Guide to Flies

Longest Dry Fly Season

We have the longest dry fly season in the west. It starts in March and runs through October with a brief interruption in May due to run-off.

It’s almost certain that you’ll be fishing a size 10 or larger dry during your trip no matter when you come. It starts with stoneflies in the spring, moves on to hoppers in the summer, and finishes up with October Caddis in the fall.

Let’s Go Fly Fishing

July Montana Fly Fishing Hatches

Golden stoneflies (#8-10), Green Drakes (#8-10), Spruce Moth (#10-12), Yellow Sallies (#14-16), and Pale-Morning Duns (#14-16)

Dry Fly Golden Stone Fly

Golden Stone Fly

The big stoneflies and drakes will linger into the early part of July gradually giving way to consistent hatches of Yellow Sallies and PMDs. Every stream and river in the area will be fishing in July. 

On larger rivers like the Bitterroot and Clark Fork the trout will start to congregate in pods to feed on the daily emergence of mayflies and little stones. The Blackfoot and Rock Creek typically have a Spruce Moth hatch that produces ridiculously good dry fly fishing. This is the most predictable time to fish in regards to weather and water conditions. Montana Fly Fishing Hatches – Reserve Your Fishing Trip Now

Strong Mayfly and Caddis Hatches

In addition, we have strong hatches of almost every mayfly and caddis hatch you can imagine so when you’re tired of throwing the big bugs we can switch gears and target actively rising fish with delicate presentations.

Montana Fly Fishing – Blue Ribbon Streams

August Montana Fly Fishing Hatches

Grasshoppers (#6-10), Tricos (#18-22), and Hecubas (#8-10)

Dry Fly Hopper - Montana Fly Fishing

Dry Fly Hopper

The peak of summer is hopper time. The rivers aren’t as busy and the trout lie in wait along grassy banks and under logjams to ambush these hapless terrestrials when they hit the water. The Bitterroot and Clark Fork also have morning trico hatches that provide ample targets to test your dry fly skills.

These fish feed willingly regardless of weather, but they demand a good fly with the proper presentation. The Hecuba, or Fall Drake, will show up mid-month and can provide some of the most exciting fishing of the summer. Trout have a hard time passing up a juicy mayfly when all they have seen is hoppers drifting over them for weeks. Montana Fly Fishing Hatches – Fall Trout Fishing at its Finest

The BIG Question

The most common question I get from visiting anglers over the phone is, “When is THE best time to come fly fishing in Missoula?” This stock question always gets the stock reply of, “Whenever you can.”

Some folks mistake this for a smart-alec response, but it’s about as honest an answer as I can give without knowing more about the angler. The conversation usually continues, (I did have a fellow hang-up once), and in the end people realize I wasn’t joking.

Montana Fly Fishing Hatches – Fly Fishing Opportunities

Let’s Go Fishing!

September/October Montana Fly Fishing Hatches

Grasshoppers (#6-10), October Caddis (#8-10), Mahoganies (#12-16) and Blue-wing Olives (#16-18)

Dry Fly Hopper - Trout Like

Dry Fly Hopper

Hopper fishing is a mainstay throughout the fall, but as the leaves start to turn and the mornings get frosty the autumn mayflies will begin to appear. Daily hatches along with the urge to feed before winter make fall fly fishing one of the highlights of the year. 

The Bitterroot fishes great late into the fall, and this is THE time to be on the Clark Fork for rising fishThe Blackfoot and Rock Creek have solid October Caddis hatches and the violent strikes from big trout are not to be missed.

Call and Book Your Fishing Adventure Today!

Another Day on the River with Tony Reinhardt…

Monday was the first June day with regular angler, Bob. We made a plan to meet up with some friends at the end of the day on the upper Bitterroot, but when we arrived at the put-in there were already 9 boats in the water and another one getting ready. We had to pull the plug on the evening cocktail and retreat further downriver. At Hamilton we geared up without another boat in sight and high hopes of single dry fly fishing. Bob’s very first cast yielded a cutthroat on a golden stone dry.

That was a sign of things to come as there were trout looking up in all of the likely places including a big 19-20″ brown that was holding tight to log. That was an exciting fight as Bob had to keep the fish out of the log and then dodge some mid-river wood before sweeping down a fast run into some slow water. Trout continued to eat the big stone until we stopped for lunch. Not long into the afternoon we found a side channel with rising trout and switched over to a PMD pattern. Bob had a heyday in there landing 6 on the dry with the best a 17″ cuttbow. The mayflies continued to pour off throughout the afternoon and we found several different spots with actively rising trout. They weren’t just sipping either, they were crushing the mayflies which is a little unusual but it was great fun to watch.

It was interesting to note that when we had solid cloud cover there were good numbers of rising fish and they were good sized. When the sun was out there weren’t many rising trout and the fish we tagged were smaller on average. Sun or clouds though, the rod was bent most of the afternoon with a mix of cutthroats, rainbows, and browns. Fish were moving out of their feeding lanes and even chasing dragging flies downstream to eat. Stuff that rarely happens later in the season and we both laughed at how aggressive the trout were today. By 4 the sun poked out for good and Bob had his fill today so we pushed the last half mile to the ramp. Our day didn’t go as initially planned but the fishing more than made up for it today.

Tuesday I was out with local angler, Jim, on his favorite stretch of the Bitterroot. We started off with a single dry fly in an upstream side channel and Jim stuck the first cutthroat of the day on his second cast. We raised two more in that spot before moving on downstream. We had two rods rigged today. One with a bigger golden stone and the other with a smaller PMD. The golden stone rod proved to be our workhorse in the morning. They weren’t looking up in all of the spots early, but there were enough eats to keep our attention. The PMD fooled a few in side channels but most of our fish before lunch came on the golden stone. After we finished lunch there still wasn’t much in the way of bugs coming off so we stayed with the big fly. There was a definite improvement in activity right out of the gate. Fish were eating in almost all of the likely spots with a better average size in the afternoon.

Most of the runs produced at least one trout and some gave up 2 or 3 on the big dry. Then we worked another side channel with the PMD and decided to stick with it in the main river. Jim landed 3 in the next run including a healthy 16″ cutthroat. From there we stayed with the smaller dry the rest of the day and eventually the bugs started to come off around 3. Once that happened we had more rising fish and even better action. It’s always fun to target actively rising trout and for a while in the afternoon Jim was picking off 3 or 4 risers per run. The hatch didn’t last terribly long today and we closed out the last mile with no risers and just a fish or two per run. We had solid action from start to finish today with a good mix of cutts, rainbows and browns. There were lots of fish from 10-14″, a decent number of 15-16 inchers and the biggest of the day was a bright cutthroat around 18″. The upper Bitterroot rarely disappoints in late June and today was no exception.